Explore & Keep Your Roots

People who go on expeditions to explore new territory know it is neither wise nor safe to cut themselves off from all civilization, all contact, all concern, and just disappear into the wilderness. They take communication devices, the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, maps, sextants, compasses, first-aide, experienced companions, journals to record and report, and countless more supplies, no doubt mostly prepared by others. Even hermits or people like Christopher McCandless do this, but perhaps in cruder fashion. Generally, people who venture out on dangerous expeditions into the remote wilderness or deep sea or space realize they are doing so for the benefit of the human race and maintain contact therefore.

I believe it is the same for those venturing out spiritually, religiously, theologically, or philosophically. Those who venture out on their own and completely cut themselves off to disappear into the wasteland forever have only benefited no one. Which seems to be happening a lot today. It can be argued… and it is an argument I listen to… that people such as monks and hermits who remove themselves from the crowd in order to explore new spiritual territory or to pray for the world are actually benefiting the human race vicariously. What I am talking about even applies to them. They realize that even though they intentionally detach themselves from the crowd, they are not completely on their own nor should be… that somehow we are all still connected in a vital way to benefit one another.

It is important for those of us who venture out theologically, spiritually, ecclesiastically, philosophically, religiously… that we remember our connections. Which is why I think it is important to:

  1. Study the bible, especially in its original languages. If you can. Or use translations and commentaries that do. I don’t think it is wise to abandon the study of the scriptures or to neglect the oldest and best manuscripts of them. Even though I don’t believe the bible is THE Revelation, it certainly is the oldest witness to It. This has fundamental value. I personally know the temptation to abandon the years of Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic that I took through my theological education. But I am wisest when I realize they are like keys to a precious book.
  2. Study the theologians and philosophers who have already broken ground. Even though Luther and Calvin made enormous, radical and reformational breakthroughs in theology, they admitted they were standing on the shoulders of those who went before, including the philosophers. Even though Barth’s Romans shook the ecclesiastical world, he humbly realized he stood in a long line of theological forebears.
  3. Study our history and tradition. I don’t think there is wisdom in being different for difference’s sake. Neither do I think there is safety. Like an explorer who humbly accepts the council of those who are experienced and know, or learns lessons from those who died on the ice, so we should sincerely appreciate what has worked and what hasn’t. It’s all been done before, so I suspect the effects are available for us to observe.

I suspect this is one of the most conservative posts I’ve written.

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  • Too often, when Christians leave church, they then join something else which doesn’t have the same base. In doing so, they throw the baby out with the bathwater. The teachings attributed to Jesus are sound and I believe they apply to all people of all time. The contain no doctrine or creeds. Why become a Hare Krishna or something else when the soundest doctrine is available to us? Just because it has been misused doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Yes, I believe there has to be a period of detox and a period where we redefine everything or else we’ll short circuit and the old toxic beliefs will surface. I totally agree with you, David. A copy of the aramaic translation…a look into some other views…but most of all, a detatchment from the gospel of quantity…to get as many people as possible to say the sinners prayer and fill the pews…and a new foundation based on the KIngdom of God and the red letters in our bibles. Look at Paul through the eyes of Jesus rather than Jesus through the eyes of Paul…realize that these were men delineating their spiritual experiences under Divine guidance and not people taking dictation from heaven. Recognize that inspiration and God speaking directly are two different things. We don’t need to do something new. We need to redefine what we already know.

  • Like Barth insisted, it is not around but “through”.

  • bob

    “I suspect this is one of the most conservative posts I’ve written.”

    You got that right :l what the hell?

    “…I think it is important to:
    1.Study the bible…
    2.Study the theologians and philosophers…
    3.Study our history and tradition…”

    Obviously np, you place value on these three. I do to, but perhaps for slightly different reasons. They help me understand the absurdity of religious (Christian) beliefs.

    Can I propose a forth important point?

    4. Modify your religious beliefs, even to the point of making them up, as long as, and only if those modifications cause you to be more compassionate, generous, and less critical toward your fellow human beings.

  • bob: I agree. These are important to me. I am known as a Christian and I accept that this is the religion I am a part of and willingly align myself with. However, I would also agree that modify, or even more radical, transform! your beliefs. Or kill them and start over! Explorers explore because they are not content with what we know and enjoy. They are looking for something new. I agree.

  • (First time commenter here…)

    I think #1 is important. In seminary I heard that if you want to understand what Paul or Luke were saying in the Greek all the way, you would have to read at least 7 different translations. Thats a lot of reading. Might want to stock up on some parallel Bibles. 🙂

  • I am not sure I would agree with strictly applying all three of your points, but I do appreciate the call to remember your roots.

    I am no longer a Christian, but I deeply value the positive contributions the Christian faith has made to my spiritual journey. To deny or reject my time within the Christian faith would mean rejecting who I am today. However, I am currently engaged in re-framing the experiences I had within this faith and applying a new lens to them.

    Sometimes… it is hard to achieve a balance between honouring your roots while adventuring into the expansive wilderness in front of you.

  • Thanks for commenting Perigee-syzygy!